We live in an age of digital disruption, surrounded by technology on all sides. Achieving success requires us to accept and implement those tech solutions into everything we do. Business owners can approach technology solutions the way Goldilocks sampled the beds of the three bears—not too large, not too small, but just right.
Of course, some tech solutions are more complex than others. That mom-and-pop bakery isn't likely to have an experienced programmer on staff. But for those with the know-how, high-quality and inexpensive options are ripe for use.
Businesses facing potentially limited budgets should consider starting small with cost-effective, low-complexity tech investments to avoid being overwhelmed, later building scalability into the companies as they grow. The ultimate goal is satisfying customers with positive interactions so they keep purchasing the companies' products—the “just right" portion of the analogy.
By cost-effective, I mean a technology investment that adds no overhead costs to the business, but enables employees to be more productive, so a company can grow quickly. Investments have to match affordability, which might be minimal at the start. Because budgets may get tight unexpectedly, technology should be flexible enough to serve multiple functions.
This doesn't preclude us from thinking ahead to our eventual goals and asking whether a technology investment can be adapted accordingly. With the pace of technology changing so fast—and traditional business cycles being reduced—small businesses can't afford to stagnate.
Invest to Affect Customer Growth and Business Scalability
Business owners should always evaluate the effectiveness of their tech solutions to provide optimal customer value. Check how other companies are using technology. Look for tech vendors that have no long-term contracts; they are likely to provide a better experience. And U.S.-based vendors often enable faster, smoother call support.
Now, what about the solutions themselves? Here are four investment options that can help grow and retain a healthy customer base.
1. Utilize application program interfaces [APIs].
Think of APIs as premade software tools that can be purchased for specific tasks so they don't have to be developed internally—thereby saving time and money. I can only imagine the hours and costs it would take me to develop my own GPS app, for example, not to mention hiring a larger sales force to scale my business as it grows.
—Ari Rabban, CEO, Phone.com
APIs enable me to keep focusing on what's important to my business. Not only that, but they are designed to work with multiple systems, meaning they allow for better integration into other internally developed systems.
High-abstraction APIs combined with automation can enable an existing call center interactive voice response system to be updated in minutes, often by simply changing a menu option. APIs can allow faster, more affordable implementations of marketing campaigns, triggering more creative interactions with customers.
2. Optimize search engine results.
No business wants to look small, even if there are only a handful of employees on the payroll. A top-rate online user experience helps our business stay a contender, so I make it a priority to consistently rise to the top of my potential customers' search engine results.
This requires capturing their attention the moment they connect to my website. With high-end, exceptional content and easy navigation, customers are likely to stay longer and return more often, which can lead to a surge in Google rankings.
3. Incorporate tracking technology in tools.
If I can't measure results and understand how my users interact with me, my customer growth prospects diminish greatly. By implementing free tools such as Google Analytics, I can see what customers respond to on my site and focus my marketing budget on what's actually working instead of flushing cash down the drain.
4. Encourage integration among employees and systems.
Technology is only as good as the team employing it. My employees need to think beyond their areas of expertise and communicate freely with other departments. Designers need to understand marketing's intricacies just as marketers need to demonstrate strategic thinking. Likewise, all of my systems talk to each other instead of existing in a vacuum.
Technology is omnipresent in today's business world. With the right investments, it can help us maximize customer growth and satisfaction and personalize the customer experience.